Charlotte is struggling. With motherhood, with the changes marriage and parenthood bring, with losing the time and the energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, wants things to be as they were and can’t face the thought of another English winter.
A brochure slipped through the letterbox gives him the answer: ‘Australia brings out the best in you.’ Before she has a chance to realise what it will mean, Charlotte is travelling to the other side of the world.
Arriving in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light and slowly reveals that this new life is not the answer either was hoping for. Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs and how far she’ll go to find her way home . . .
A novel of astonishing grace and devastating emotional power that will make your heart ache. If you loved The Hours or The Hand that First Held Mine, you will love The Other Side of the World.
Stephanie Bishop’s first novel was The Singing, for which she was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists. Her second novel, The Other Side of the World, was longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. She holds a PhD from Cambridge and is currently a lecturer in creative writing at the University of New South Wales.
The Other Side of the World begins in an icy English winter when Charlotte, a painter, and her academic Indian husband Henry move to Western Australia in search of a new, lighter life. The suburbs of Perth in the 1950s are far more difficult to negotiate than Charlotte could have imagined. Beginning as a story about migration and the constraints of domesticity, The Other Side of the World expands into a tale of the nature of belonging, the complexity of motherhood and the dangers of nostalgia. The freedoms and duties imposed by culture, gender, race and class all emerge in this study of one particular marriage, as it unravels in the West Australian heat.
Stephanie Bishop’s prose has a delicate, watercolour loveliness that belies the ferocity of her material. Two characters struggle to resolve an impossible contradiction: bound together by affection and need, their destinies ultimately diverge. Stephanie Bishop holds this struggle in perfect equipoise throughout.
‘Bishop has a doctorate in poetry, and this informs her thoughtful, intense prose. Her protagonist is impossible to like, but Bishop writes with such confidence that Charlotte’s choices are always interesting. Bishop also writes with clarity about the competing demands in life. She questions ideas, and ideals, of motherhood that historically made it almost impossible for a woman to be creative without the world collapsing about her, or on her. Those postwar years can look glamorous and innocent, but glamour and innocence were dependent upon monstrous inequalities.’ Helen Elliot, The Monthly
‘As a portrayal of the claustrophobia of motherhood, and of cultural and geographical dislocation, The Other Side of the World is an insightful, exquisitely observed novel. Bishop is a talented and intelligent storyteller with a masterful command of language’ Hannah Beckerman, The Guardian
‘What these stories have in common is a sense of the other side of the world as ambiguous, unsettling, even alienating. You can so easily escape one set of problems only to be confronted with a new set – or the same old problems in a different guise. ‘ Jane Sullivan, Australian Book Review